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“Disc Death” By: Erik Johnson

I was talking with my friend Luke the other day about losing discs while we were rooting through the woods for my poorly delivered drive. I told him how I recently lost a couple discs and that it made me want to start putting my name and number on each and every one of my discs from there on out, so that I could get them back. Luke completely disagreed.

“Why? You just have to let them go if you can’t find them, and know that you will find another one later.”

“Yeah, but what about the discs that I really like?”

“Then just keep looking till you find it. I mean its here somewhere, isn’t it?”

And looking up just then, we saw the red Star TL perched on the upper canopy of the trees we were in. The irony here being that the Star TL isn’t my disc (And yes it has someone else’s name and number on it).

This conversation of course got me thinking. What is it that makes me feel like I deserve getting every disc back that I’ve lost? Or, for that matter, get any back? I’m like all disc golfers: I have found way more discs than I have lost. So my entitlement is not from a tally of lost and found. Reflecting on this made me admit it’s from a place that’s deeper.

I think it’s an attempt to control the uncontrollable. It’s some sort of death insurance. When I lose a disc I feel completely powerless. I get all pissy stomping around looking for it. “I saw the disc go in the woods right here, and now, magically, it disappeared. Great.” Putting my name and number on the back of a disc allows me to feel safer about throwing it. But I guess my point is that it is false control.

Yes, putting my name and number on a disc changes what happens when someone finds it. But is it the way that I want to interact with others? What do I want to have happen when someone finds my lost disc? They turn it over and realize it’s unmarked and WAM! they just won. It’s a great feeling, as we all know. Or they turn that puppy over, and see that I’ve essentially written, “MINE. Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.” all over it. And seriously, we know that some people are going to see that name and number and not do a damn thing about it. And those people are the ones who seem to find my discs anyway. The guy who calls you back is the guy who you don’t mind saying, “don’t worry about it man, just keep it. Thanks for the call though.” So either way, when you’ve lost a disc it’s as good as gone.

Marking your disc changes the experience of the finder, but to be sure it also changes what happens when I lose a disc. Once I’ve marked a disc I look less hard for it when it’s lost. Apparently other people become my little search and rescue crew. What’s worse, I think about that disc weeks later when I’m back at the course, hoping I see the son of a bitch to who found it and didn’t call me. To glimpse the yellow of my favorite gazelle flying threw the blue sky would rise in me such a righteous anger that I would totally say regrettable words to that poor guy as I rip my disc from his dead hands. It’s strange how putting my name on my discs change what I expect from other people. Quite a burden.

So if putting my name on my disc is a sense of false security, and that I’m really trying to have some control over the larger concept of loss, how can I approach it differently? This is what I came to: Consistency.

If Luke throws his unmarked discs out there, entrusting them to the universe, then great. But if this is his mindset, he’s got to stay consistent. If he sees someone with his disc someday, he’s got to not care. Even if he ends up losing all his discs and has to start a completely new arsenal, that’s what he has chosen; if you don’t put your name on your discs, then you are guaranteed to never get a one returned.

The same goes for the guy who marks all his discs, even the no name ones he finds. He can’t find other people’s marked discs and not call them back. He has got to act exactly how he would like someone to treat him if they found his disc. That means making a drive to some far off town to meet the owner, or scheduling to play a game together, hoping the owner isn’t some strange German or something.

Whichever way you lean – giving control to the universe and making people’s day when they find your disc, or hoping for others to help you out when they see your name and number – consistency is what seems to be the most important.

In being consistent I’m not having a false sense of security, I am choosing how it’s going to go down. I’m being intentional about how I am going to act, and no matter which way I choose, I need to acknowledge that I will not come out on top every time. I am going to still lose discs. I am still going to find and keep discs which I didn’t buy. All this is part of disc golf, and part of life.

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